Think Again if You Plan to Remove Vista and Install XP on a Laptop

  • Comments: 223
  • Written on: April 3rd, 2007

The above picture is of Johnny Cash in his “One Piece at a time” Cadillac that was featured in his hit 1976 song. It is funny how a 1976 song that is silly at best could come to personify installing Windows XP on a notebook that came with Vista preinstalled.

I am sending major kudos to our Senior Repair Technician, Blaze Johnson for sorting out one of the biggest hardware driver headaches we have seen since Windows 95. If you are planning on buying a new notebook computer with Vista preinstalled and hope to install Windows XP yourself instead, you have some surprises in store for you.

In this particular case we had purchased a brand new Gateway notebook computer that had Windows Vista preinstalled on it (as almost all notebooks now do). Our client needed to have Windows XP Professional on the notebook, as their IT department was not supporting Vista yet (as most will not at this time).

Blaze opened up the new laptop and wiped the hard drive in what would normally be a quick and easy XP Professional install. Then the driver fun began.


The notebook was equipped with a SATA (Serial ATA) hard drive for faster data throughput. SATA hard drives require a SATA software driver for Windows to recognise them during the installation process. Blaze went to Gateway’s website and was surprised to find no Windows XP drivers AT ALL were available for the unit. Not a single one.

So now we had a problem. Without a Windows XP SATA driver, the notebook would not install Windows XP. Next we checked the Intel website to see if they had a driver for Windows XP (after all, it was their SATA chipset). Again, Blaze hit a brick wall. No XP drivers were available, but every Vista driver known to man was ready for download. Blaze called me and explained the situation and together we set out on a driver hunt unlike anything we have had to do in years.

With “One Piece at a Time” rolling through my head, I started searching for a SATA driver. I started by double checking Blaze’s work, and as usual it was thorough. There were no drivers available for this chipset in the usual places. Next, I found an IBM notebook that used the same chipset, but came with Windows XP preinstalled. I located that IBM driver and sent it to Blaze, and by golly it worked!

Now we could at least install Windows XP on the hard drive. Unlike most installations of XP where the drivers are simply found by the operating system, not a single device on the laptop functioned after the installation was complete. We were going to have to use the same patchwork search to find the software needed for each separate system in the notebook.

Next we needed video and audio drivers, which were easy enough to come by from the NVIDIA website. We had to visit the HP.com to find modem and bluetooth drivers.

Next we headed for the Dell website where we were lucky enough to find a driver for the unit’s wireless chipset.

So now our client has a Gateway Notebook running an IBM SATA driver, HP communication drivers, and a program that says the notebook has a Dell wireless network card in it, when in fact it does not. The bottom line is that it WORKS and it was done in time for our client to make her trip to Washington D.C. with Windows XP. This kind of thing is enough to make a geek drink. Thanks to all of the hardware vendors out there who decided XP was dead just because Vista is here.

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